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24 September 2011 | News, Transport | By: Rachel Holdsworth

TfL Raiding Rail Budget To Pay For Thames Cable Car

TfL Raiding Rail Budget To Pay For Thames Cable Car

Yesterday's news that the Thames Cable Car costs have risen to £60m didn't surprise us that much - Caroline Pidgeon got an admission out of Boris in June that it was pushing the £57m mark - but what's made us eye-poppingly enraged is TfL telling the BBC that they're paying for it out of the rail budget.

If TfL were swimming in cash this would be fine, but this is the same TfL that's just announced PAYG fare increases of 10p per bus journey and an 8% rise for travelcards. A TfL that's committed to huge upgrades on the tube network (surely a nobler cause for raiding other parts of their budget?). A TfL that's expanding the Overground network and involved in Crossrail.

Len Duvall has asked the Mayor about fares and how many people are expected to use the cable car. Prices will be "set at a level which includes fares that are affordable for local people" and they reckon at least 1,000,000 people will swoop across the river in the first year. Where those numbers are from is not clear (what's also not clear is whether a more comprehensive answer is on its way), but it's a nice round number and sounds a lot. Until you do this:
1,000,000 people over 365 days = 2740 people per day
Assuming it operates 12 hours a day = 228.3 people per hour
The system will have a maximum capacity of about 2500 people per hour
North Greenwich station, close to one of the cable car's proposed start points, cleared around 27,500 people each weekday (12,000 on Sundays) in 2010.
(TfL can't get figures about Royal Victoria DLR to us before Monday.)

These are, to channel Boris for a moment, piffling numbers.

TfL say they're hoping to claw back the costs through commercial sponsorship, an application to the European Regional Development Fund and fares - but the first two aren't guaranteed (and if the project isn't finished by the Olympics, it will be a lot less attractive to companies hoping to plaster their logo over it). No wonder nobody's saying yet how much a trip will cost.

Photo by Ian Visits from the Londonist Flickr pool.

Rachel Holdsworth

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Dave H

Well it's quite dodgy that they're raiding a rail budget for a transport link that is completely superfluous from any practical perspective.

But I don't see the "piffling" numbers as a problem, necessarily. So the cable car will serve about 10% of the numbers that the equivalent section of the Jubilee Line? (Actually could be more than 10%, as the 27,500 figure you state doesn't specify which direction the passengers are travelling in, and I'd be willing to bet that the majority of them are actually travelling towards central London, not Canning Town.) But how much would that section of the Jubilee Line have cost to construct? More than 10 times the projected cost of the cable car? I don't actually know, but it doesn't sound infeasible to me.


Even though this thing will be virtually in my back yard and technically I'd benefit from it, I can't see the bloody point of it since it more or less duplicates the Jubilee one-stop sector from Canning Town to North Greenwich without properly connecting at either end ...


Like Dave, I don't necessarily see the numbers as a problem. Their estimates don't appear to be based on anything concrete so it's equally possible they'll be serving more than their 1m guess. What I feel is more of a concern is the lack of forethought around funding and the raiding of an already-stretched rail budget to fill the gap.


Seems to me it's pretty much just to make London look a bit prettier or more exciting. At least a trip on the cable car gives you a nicer view than on the train. :)


The calculation you make doesn't paint the whole picture. The peaks and valleys of daily/annual ridership vary widely - you can't just average out ridership evenly across every operational hour of the year - especially given the Olympics.

Nevertheless, this is a pretty disturbing project. I run an information resource on Urban Gondolas and Cable Propelled Transit systems and even I'm appalled by the cost overruns here. They're completely unjustified. If you're interested, I've gone through a lot of the problematic costs of this system here:



Look out for an announcement today regarding Sponsorship which should put to rest some fears!!!